How Do You Know You Have Forgiven Someone?
“How do you know you have forgiven someone?” asked an entrepreneur friend.
“I hired someone and treated him like my own brother,” he continued, “But his performance was lackluster. After learning the business, he formed his own company and became my competitor. Worse, he pirated some of my key employees.”
He sighed, “I know I have to forgive him. That’s what the Bible says, right? But I still feel the pain of betrayal. Does that mean I have an unforgiving spirit?”
I think a lot of our struggles about forgiveness lies in misunderstanding it.
Forgiveness is not the absence of pain. You may find it counter-intuitive, but it is possible to forgive while in pain. We are still physical and emotional beings, so to smother the pain will not help. In fact, if you don’t feel any loss, then what’s there to forgive? That is why we should not confuse lingering hurt with unforgiveness. Grief has to be processed and people heal in their own paces.
One fundamental definition of forgiveness is a refusal to retaliate in kind. I love the way a pastor said it: “Forgiveness is not to use his sin against him.” We still hurt, but we refuse to hit back, to smear his reputation, to plot his downfall.
In fact, one ideal is to say someday, “You have hurt me, but I have forgiven you. Now I wish you well. May the Lord bless you.” If you are not yet there, it’s okay as long as you have forgiven amidst the pain. You don’t have to feel guilty about your pain.
Does that mean that the relationship can go back to the way it was before? Not necessarily. This is what we will explore in the next blog.
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